Is there anything better to do on a hot summer afternoon or a muggy evening than sit back and enjoy ice cream? We must admit that it’s a perfect activity whatever your age. Luckily, Budapest (and indeed Hungary) is full of good ice cream parlors, but one popular player is inviting us into a new galaxy: introducing Mikrokosmos by Füge!
There are symbolic dishes all around the world. Ice cream is one of them—it stands for summer, for freedom, for holidays, for carefree childhood. We have it when there’s almost nothing else to eat in the heat, or when we want to make a moment really special (I’m an enthusiastic supporter of vanilla ice cream spread on a winter hot apple crumble, for example). We have it in so many variations: there’s the Italian gelato, which is softer and thicker than classic ice cream, the Japanese kakigori, a kind of flavored ‘shaved ice’, the American soft serve (known as a twist ice cream in Hungary), the Indian kulfi... And we haven’t even mentioned popsicles. Opinions vary on what makes a good ice cream dessert, but in general, it should be creamy, softly melting, flavorsome, not just simply sweet.
Having moved beyond the chocolate-vanilla-punch flavor trifecta and the frozen ice chips water base, the Hungarian ice cream scene has been going from strength to strength for years (as we’ve written about before), but the question regularly arises as to whether there’s anything new under the sun. How many good ice cream parlors can a city, or even a street, support? If you’re a true fan, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that any number. It is no coincidence that a new place has opened on Bartók Béla Street in Budapest: Mikroskosmos by Füge.
We know a lot of places called Füge, but let’s start by getting this straight: it’s the little sister of the Füge shop and café on the side of Gellért Hill. Located next to the Citadella, it’s a deli, café, pastry shop, and ice cream parlor in summer, and its fan base has been growing since 2016. It’s no wonder, as it literally has everything and is open late, which is why I’ve often wandered in to check it out in the evening, ending a hillside walk. The family behind Füge, however, also has many ties to the 11th district and Bartók Béla Street, where the children grew up. An opportunity came up six months ago for a vacant store, and they jumped at the chance, but at first, they weren’t sure what the function would be. However, as the mother is a true ice cream wizard, always learning and experimenting, something she is famous for in the above case as well, they thought they would try out how a pop-up ice cream shop would be greeted in the heart of Újbuda.
Mikrokosmos by Füge, with a floating astronaut—the playful name refers back to a composition by Béla Bartók, a 6-volume work of 153 pieces in which both complete beginners and highly skilled pianists will find a score to suit their skills. When I was learning the piano, it was a compulsory course in my school, although I must admit that I did have a few pieces that I fell out with. The creative logo is also the former graphic designer mother’s brainchild, as are the ice creams, of which she has already created nearly 100 flavors. There are always different varieties in each of the 24 jars, but there are one or two favorites that almost always pop up: the Pistachio cremino, a very concentrated pistachio-Turkish hazel-white chocolate bomb, or the slightly lighter Pistachio and ricotta. There are also plenty of sugar-free or even dairy-free versions, for example, with plenty of fruit ice creams—strawberry, raspberry, mango—for those who want a more solid dessert. They’re not afraid to experiment, either, with Gallipolli (saffron white chocolate with almonds), Roasted almonds with orange, or Black sesame, as well as Eggnog and sour cherry and a variety of cheesecake ice creams. You can ask for tastings of everything, the team is happy to tell you about it, offer suggestions, and the friendly service is not an extra, it’s the basis of everything.
Frankly, you do get a little tingly when you know that there are two other excellent ice cream parlors next door. However, my personal opinion, like Füge’s, is that there is plenty of room for more than one brand on a street like this. I would be happiest if the standard was one quality place after another. No bidding against each other or unfair competition, and that’s what makes it great. The ice cream mask may be similar, but the character behind is quite different—I’d leave it to the reader to taste here and there, as long as the weather is good, it can’t go wrong!
Photos: Szilárd Máté